Sunday, October 28, 2012

Module Comments: Maimed God's Saga

The scales up there?  That's Tyr.
Link to Module
My Vote: 10 - A Masterpiece, Genuinely Groundbreaking
Character: lv 6. Male Lawful Good Cleric of Tyr, reached lv 9

I've played a lot of clerics over the years.  My character in my original playthrough of BG1/BG2, as well as my character for NWN2's official campaign were both clerics.  I like to have a strong healer in my parties, I suppose.  The thing is, however, that I've never really felt like a cleric from a roleplaying perspective.  I have no idea which god any of my characters would have worshiped, beyond some generally good deity or another.  I had no connection to the deity save for the fact that I could cast spells.  In truth, I might as well have just been playing an arcane spellcaster who happens to cast healing spells.

The great triumph of this module is that it completely reversed this trend.  In the Maimed God's Saga, you get to roleplay a cleric to a degree that frankly has never been done in a video game before.  As a cleric of Tyr, you not only take on an aspect of your deity's dogma as your character's primary motivation, but you ultimately get the opportunity to interact with him directly.  Regaining spells typically requires one to pray at an altar, rather than simply resting, and these events are used frequently throughout the module to add amazing roleplaying opportunities.  Playing this module completely changed how I view gods in Forgotten Realms-style fantasy, and I'm looking forward to taking these ideas into my play by post games.

The Manor
The story itself begins as a local mystery: a request has come from a tiny, obscure town for help against a long-standing curse that has plagued their ruling family.  That curse, however, is gradually revealed to be part of something far greater that stands to threaten the entirety of the Sword Coast, and upset the balance of power among the gods themselves.  The pacing is very good, with surprising twists and turns throughout that had me deeply invested in both the story and my character's place in it.  This is a roleplaying-intensive module, where even seemingly small decisions can substantially impact the story...and sometimes in very surprising ways.  And the companion...I played with the female (my character was male), and I found her to be among the most interesting, well-realized, and evocative companion characters I've encountered in any game.

As Tiberius explains in the readme, there is frequent combat in the module, but you should expect to have the opportunity to rest and regain your spells in between most of the challenging encounters.  Once you've settled in, he recommends deciding on a course of action, resting, praying to regain spells, and setting off to accomplish that goal.  I generally followed this advice and found combat to be well balanced but challenging throughout the mod.  The key to success in combat, I found, was to use the ranger companion as a tank, freeing my cleric to use his spells.  I did take a nice stack of healing potions with me into the module and was glad to have them, but they were rarely necessary outside of a few big fights.

It's dark here!
If there's a criticism that I had of this module, it's probably that it does too good of a job of depicting its atmosphere.  The majority of the module takes place in a small, isolated town subject to a curse.  The town is virtually dead, and it's rendered in this module as a place that is dark, virtually deserted, and hopeless.  The interiors of occupied buildings are dark, even during the day (it's constantly raining and gloomy), requiring ample use of Light spells or torches (and, for my comfort as a player, gamma correction).  All of this is done, no doubt, to paint a foreboding and dark mood...but at times, I found that it bordered on depressing.  I found that I had to be in a certain mood to play this module in its early goings, and if I was tired (I often am), stressed (again, I often am), etc, it was often more fun to play something else than to load up the Maimed God's Saga.  That's not to say that there aren't exciting moments, or that playing this module was not incredibly truth, perhaps because of what you had to go through, this module left me as satisfied as any that I've ever played.  But there were times when I just didn't want to face that dark, depressing town.

But my goodness, I'm glad I continued to come back to it.  This module is a triumph of module making.  It's story and roleplaying depth are among the best I've ever seen in a module, and it is probably the best class-specific module I've ever played.  Thanks for the fantastic experience.

More Screenies:
The companion is beautifully written

Miracle Tree

'Tis the bathroom!

Wonderful little detail: that's the manor at the base of the hill, far beyond where the walkmesh ends

A cabin in the woods

Bugbears guarding a temple?

Bad things are afoot.

Didn't really show up in my review, but the scenery is beautifully rendered.

Some subsequent musings...Spoilers follow!!

I had no idea who Malar was prior to playing this module, beyond occasionally seeing "Malarites" as random foes in other modules.  Learning about him was one of the many great pleasures I gleaned in playing this module.  So as I looked through back posts by Tiberius, I loved this one describing some of his design process, and especially on his choice of Malar as a key villain:
Thanks for your feedback and vote. As to your questions, the choice of Malar was more of an evolution than a definite choice at the beginning. My original conception of the story involved a female PC and a male companion, Tancred, who had reason to dislike the Tyrran church. The means to believably getting two people who had no reason to trust each other up front into a relationship in so short a time was to set the module far from civilization where each had only the other to really on. Because the module was therefore set in a remote setting, I settled on the notion that Tancred had been forced by the church to act as a guide to Navatranaasu as penance for a crime. Both the remote location and the role of guide meant that the class of ranger just popped out for him. (It also helped that ranger would nicely complement a cleric PC unlike, say, druid.) 
Next, I needed a reason why he would even care if the PC was successful in Navatranaasu, given his normal dislike for Tyrrans, so I needed an enemy he would come to loathe even more than he already did Tyr. I was making a cleric-themed mod, so I ultimately needed a deity, and I thought about what deity that might that be for a nature-loving ranger. Malar seemed the obvious fit. 
Simultaneously to this, I was developing the back-story and knew I wanted the mystery to center around a centuries-old curse. I played with a lot of forms of this curse, but I came more and more to like lycanthropy as its root cause as well as the vision I began to have of local lore involving a supernatural beast that stalked the hills. These two notions reinforced my growing belief that Malar was the correct choice for adversary. 
I was actually pleased when Malar ended up being the natural choice. He is a deity that hasn’t been used very often and I thought I could flesh him out in a way that was at least a little fresh for FR lore junkies. In other words, some (only a little) of what I put into the module isn’t strictly FR-approved lore, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from making Malar what I wanted him to be. 
Funny enough, I was originally going to have the campaign be only class-specific and allow the player to choose whether they wanted to follow a list of deities including Lathander or Ilmater. However, the more the story developed, the more I realized it essentially dealt with the core theme of justice and so really only Tyr made sense. That was less pleasing to me, as Tyr (unlike Malar) is one of those deities that has been heavily overused in the NWN franchise starting at the beginning with Aribeth. 
Oh, and as I was cementing the final form of the story, I was also recruited to help make Mysteries of Westgate, and the backstory that developed for my companion, Charissa, also ended up forcing her to be a Tyrran… so I was personally overdoing Tyr during that entire time. 
As for whether other class-specific modules should be made, that’s up to the community. I really think modders should make whatever inspires them. I would think that would lead to the highest quality mods overall. For the record, I do like class-specific mods. Two of my favorite NWN1 mods are "Almraiven," which is built for wizards, and "Threat of Dreams," which, if not mandatory for Rogues, at least strongly encourages them. On the other hand, my favorite NWN2 mods, "Harp and Crysanthemum" and "Trinity," are not class-specific, so either can be done really well.


  1. Berliad,

    Glad you enjoyed the module. Sorry it was such a chore getting through it ;) Anyway, you can take solace in the knowledge that your actions made the town a much happier place.

  2. Thanks Tiberius! I don't think I'd characterize playing through the mod as a "chore." It was more of an activation energy problem. Every time I played, I had a terrific time. But sometimes, the prospect of loading up your (at times) dark and foreboding module was less appealing than, for example, loading up BG again for a play-through and dealing with the silliness of Minsc.

    It's a testament to how well you set the mood, I think. Were my life a bit less stressful, I would have had no problem moving through the module. And once it really got going (about mid-way though the "missions" as I remember it), I was eeking out every available minute I had to play. I don't have a lot of those minutes, but those I had went to this game!

    Thanks again for the wonderful module.

  3. The Harvest of Chaos : King's festival and Queens Harvest by Kaldor Silverwand took my Cleric to level 6 and outfitted him with an appropriate amount of gold and equipement. The PnP base of the NWN2 module might actually be Greyhawk however the "generic D&D setting" easily allows one to imagine it as North western Faerun.

    The Zelbross Affair by Serwyn is an even closer match roleplay wise ; it will level your character to 4 if you play it correctly but it leaves you under powered for Tiberius mod (or more challanging). The Greypeaks by Serwyn will likely level you to 7 and again is a nice close fit roleplay wise.

    An old friend "who suggests Themed Campaigns


  4. Did you play with the sound off?

    No mention of the audio.
    Great review.